Beds, Herts & Bucks

Henry Moore '£0.5m sundial' theft pair plead guilty

Henry Moore's Sundial
Image caption Henry Moore's Sundial sculpture was taken from the grounds of his former home

Two men have admitted stealing a Henry Moore sculpture worth up to £500,000, which they then sold for £46.

The Sundial sculpture and its bronze plinth were taken from the Henry Moore Foundation at Much Hadham, Herts, overnight between 10 and 11 July.

At St Albans Crown Court, Liam Hughes, 22, and Jason Parker, 19, both of Coltsfield, Stansted, Essex, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft.

Both men were bailed to be sentenced on 4 December at Luton Crown Court.

'Found in ditch'

They had previously pleaded not guilty to the thefts.

The distinctive Sundial was created by Moore in 1965, as a working model for a larger sculpture.

It was recovered after being featured on the BBC TV programme Crimewatch.

Prosecutor Ann Evans said the two items were stolen on separate occasions by the defendants and taken to a scrap dealer, who paid £46 for the sundial and £200 for the plinth.

"These defendants had no idea what the sculpture was worth," she said. "When they were arrested by the police they said they had found the items in a ditch near Tesco.

Sculpture 'priceless'

"The scrap dealer also had no idea what it was worth. He thought it was attractive and was going to give it to his mother as a present.

"Clearly the sculpture is priceless. The director of the foundation values it between £250,000 and £500,000.

"Henry Moore in his will said no cast of the work could be created, so there was great joy when it was returned because it could never have been replaced."

Judge Marie Catterson granted defence applications for pre-sentence reports.

The Sundial is among a string of works by the abstract artist, who died in 1986 aged 88, to be targeted by thieves in recent years.

The Henry Moore Foundation carried out a security review following the theft of the two-tonne Reclining Figure in December 2005.

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